As long as you surrender yourself, God will do the heavy lifting.
Published on: 08-29-2021
Hi, Jonathan. You don’t know me, but I’m Mark. My cousin is in your Celebrate Recovery group, and he tells me you help people who are desperate. Well, I’m desperate, and I need help. I’m about to lose my wife and my children, but I just can’t stop drinking.”
The man’s voice sounded like his heart was breaking, a sound Jonathan hears far too often as he serves more than 100 people each week as leader of his church’s Celebrate Recovery ministry.
Jonathan listened, asked several questions, and then told Mark that he wanted to think and pray about his request for a couple days, and then talk again.
“But first,” Jonathan said, “you must commit to not drinking. Go home, talk this through with your wife, Carol, and pour out all of the alcoholic beverages you have in the house.”
* * *
When the two men talked a couple days later, Mark was still very emotional and very committed to wanting to change his life. He and Carol had agreed to not drinking, and they had poured out all of their alcohol. Knowing that this was a big step that would require a major commitment of time and energy, both Jonathan and Mark agreed to start a 30-day trial run.
“I encouraged him that this was something we would be doing together,” remembers Jonathan, “and told him that each morning we would do a Bible study together, and that each night he would call me, and we’d talk about his day. You’ve got to be all in, sharing the good parts and the bad parts as we get to know each other, I said. As long as you surrender yourself, God will do the heavy lifting. And, whenever you feel like drinking, you must call me right then.”
The 30-day trial included three other expectations. First, Mark was to attend the Celebrate Recovery group that Jonathan led at the church. Second, Mark was to get involved with a church. Third, Mark was to join another weekly small Bible study.
“I really encouraged him to see that if he was serious about getting his life to change, he was going to have to make some significant decisions about his relationship with God and choose to begin some new behaviors.”
There was one other very important thing. Jonathan told Mark that in all his conversations with his wife he was to begin speaking with her softly and gently.
Mark was good with that, and immediately began attending Jonathan’s group on Monday evening, and choosing new words for conversations at home.
At the end of the trial period, Mark had not drunk any alcohol for the 30 days. He had also done everything else Jonathan had asked him to do. He was amazed at the new person he had become, at the new way he was thinking, at the new way he was behaving, and at the new way he was seeing other people. He was excited about how God was changing him!
“I’m not the same person anymore,” Mark told his Bible study group. “I’m different, and I like the new me!”
For a long time Mark had used alcohol, and any other excuse he could find, to avoid his family. Now the Holy Spirit was moving mightily on Mark’s heart, urging him to share his new discoveries with everyone, especially with his wife, Carol. It took some convincing, but the two of them began getting up before the kids every morning and praying their way together through a marriage devotional book.
About 10 days after starting morning devotions with Carol, Mark called Jonathan and asked, “Do you think I should be praying with her before we do the devotional each morning?”
“Yes! Thank You, Jesus,” Jonathan said.
* * *
The marriage began to heal, and as their love blossomed, Mark wondered if he ought to also start leading a daily devotional and prayer with his children. Whatever the Holy Spirit challenged him to do, Mark talked it over with Jonathan and Carol, and then ran with it.
Mark bought a children’s devotional book and began reading it at the dinner table with his 16-year-old son, their adopted 6-year-old daughter, their 4-year-old son, and their 2-year-old daughter. The kids wanted to know more about the story and asked a lot of questions. Those conversations transformed the family.
“It’s going really well,” Mark told Jonathan during their devotional one morning. “Do you think I ought to also start praying with my kids at the dinner table?”
“It was incredible to see how Mark was responding to God,” says Jonathan. “As he spent time personally in God’s Word, he became a happier person. As he met with the Celebrate Recovery groups and studied with me and Carol every day, the Holy Spirit continued moving on his heart, encouraging him to make other positive changes in every part of his life.”
Mark has now celebrated six months of not drinking. He and his family are active participants in their church. Mark has been baptized. Carol has been baptized. The whole family is involved in small group Bible studies. Mark now gives Carol two nights “off ” each week so she can be refreshed and renewed by spending time with other women from the church.
Choosing a personal relationship with Jesus and growing through a study of God’s Word and prayer is turning their lives inside out!
“We are discipling people to become disciple-makers,” says Jonathan. “We’re building leaders all the time. When people like Mark cry out for help, our goal is to raise them up to be a leader, someone who can guide others to a new life in Jesus. Key to making that happen is focusing them on serving others. Family first, then into the community. When we’re no longer focused on ourselves, but energetically serving others, the Holy Spirit grows us farther and faster than we have ever dreamed possible.”